On Tuesday night, an alligator attacked and killed 2-year-old Lane Graves at a lagoon at a Disney hotel near Orlando. The frantic search that followed dominated news coverage on Wednesday, including an afternoon press conference that revealed that the boy’s body had been found.
"As a parent and a grandparent, my heart goes out to the Graves family during this time of devastating loss," Disney (DIS) Chairman and CEO Bob Iger said in a statement Wednesday. "My thoughts and prayers are with them, and I know everyone at Disney joins me in offering our deepest sympathies.”
For Iger, this horrible tragedy is just one of many incredibly stressful matters that seem to be hitting him and his company all at once.
The alligator attack came just days after the worst mass shooting in US history, which also took place in the town of the company’s flagship theme park. For many American families, Orlando was almost synonymous to Disney World, a safe and fun place to vacation with your kids.
Now, Orlando will also be remembered as home to the tragic shooting at Pulse nightclub, which left 49 dead and 53 wounded. Reports also showed that the shooter scouted a Disney shopping complex in the week before the attack. And that event came just days after the killing of former Voice contestant Christina Grimmie, who was also shot in Orlando.
Uncertainty inside Disney
Internally, Disney has already been facing many challenges.
The stock had already been plagued this year by uncertainty around who will take over after Iger leaves in mid-2018 when his contract expires. Succession fears have been an overhang on the stock since COO and Iger's heir-apparent Thomas Staggs stepped down in April. Iger—who has been credited with the successful acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel and Lucas Films—leaves big shoes to fill, adding to uncertainty.
Concern over declining subscribers at its cable networks—which make up almost 50% of the company’s profit—has re-ignited as star columnist Bill Simmons has spoken out in recent days about the cable properties’ crown jewel, ESPN. His ugly divorce last summer with the network and the closure of his website Grantland was followed by a mass exodus of talent from ESPN.
Hope in China
Meanwhile, the $5.5 billion Shanghai Disneyland opened on Thursday, which was supposed to be the panacea for the woes plaguing Disney’s stock. Nomura analyst Anthony DiClemente called it “Mickey’s Mandarin Magic.” But as the park debuts, Iger has found himself in the middle of a multi-pronged public relations nightmare.
Iger’s solution thus far? It seems to be to put all his focus on the new Shanghai park. Iger has been in Shanghai, speaking with investors ahead of the official opening, saying he sees more expansion ahead.
"There is actually construction going on this week. When we open we will continue the construction to expand what's on the opening day menu," he said.
Analysts expect Shanghai Disneyland to become the world's most-visited theme park, attracting up to 50 million guests a year, compared with about 19 million people for Disney's flagship Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
But the slew of problems and questions marks surrounding the company remain for Disney’s shareholders and Iger. For now, all Iger can do is do his best as he juggles these issues.